Igor Shesterkin saves an assist in Rangers’ Game 6 win

PITTSBURGH — The Rangers have relied on goaltender Igor Shesterkin throughout the season. On Friday night, he even provided an assist at a crucial moment in their 5-3 Game 6 win over the Penguins.

With the Rangers power-playing in the second period, Shesterkin skated without hesitation to the bottom of the right face-off circle to meet the Penguins on the sideline, with the score tied at 2-2.

Shesterkin tossed the puck down the ice as the Penguins made a substitution. The puck hit Mika Zibanejad’s square on the tape of his stick. Zibanejad put the puck on the net and Chris Kreider cleaned up the loose rebound to give Rangers their first lead of the night en route to a Game 7 win-win Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.

“I’m training,” Shesterkin said, without the help of an interpreter, of his secondary assist on Kreider’s first of two goals on the night.

Igor Shesterkin (right) celebrates with Chris Kreider after Rangers' Game 6 win over Pittsburgh.
Igor Shesterkin (right) celebrates with Chris Kreider after Rangers’ Game 6 win over Pittsburgh.
NHLI via Getty Images

Shesterkin made 31 saves in his first road victory in that opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against Pittsburgh, where the crowd relentlessly taunted the Rangers star goaltender in all three games at PPG Paints Arena. The jeers began even before the national anthem on Friday night and continued periodically throughout the game, as they have the entire series.

The 26-year-old, who is getting his first taste of real playoff hockey after an appearance in the 2020 bubble playoffs in front of an empty arena, admitted it has been tough playing on the road this playoff .

“It’s very difficult,” he said. “I try to go in my head. I try to stay focused.

Rangers director of goalkeeping Benoit Allaire gave him advice, Shesterkin said, but he chose not to share it.

“When the game is over, you just try to forget about the game,” Shesterkin said. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. You must win four in this series. I [was] fired twice, doesn’t matter. The coach believes in me. I would like to say thank you. I’m just trying to find my game.”

Rangers fell to a 2-0 hole for the second time in as many games. When asked what was going through his mind at the time, Shesterkin bluntly replied that nothing changed for him.

“I know we have to go back to New York for Game 7,” he said. “And I just tried to focus on the puck the whole time.”

Tyler Motte played for the first time since April 7, when the trade deadline acquisition suffered what Rangers described as a “significant” upper-body injury against, coincidentally, the Penguins. In the third period of an eventual 4-1 Rangers win that night, Pittsburgh winger Anthony Angello landed a base hit on Motte and put him out for the final 15 games of the regular season.

Tyler Motte battles for the puck in the Rangers' win over the Penguins.
Tyler Motte battles for the puck in the Rangers’ win over the Penguins.

Angello, who played four games with the Penguins this season, did not play in that Stanley Cup first-round series.

Motte recorded a shot on goal and a hit in 9:32 of ice time in Game 6, including 2:11 when the Rangers were shorthanded.

Defender Patrik Nemeth was knocked out healthy for the first time in this series.

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